Private Lesson Etiquette

October 9, 2005 at 05:07 PM · Hi all.

For my sociology final project I have decided to do a presentation on how private music lessons are influenced by the race and culture of the student. How do you, as a teacher, find teaching a young Asian student, or an adult-beginner from say, Germany, or a Latino child? It could be any combination, or any race.

A good starting point might be how close to a student do you stand? As an American who values my space, I don't like it when teachers intrude on it, and I'm uncomfortable.

Any thoughts at all would be appreciated, as I have to put this into a presentation.

Replies (9)

October 9, 2005 at 10:27 PM · So far, I have taught a Swiss, a German, a Finn, and a Korean, all foreign exchange students. I've only observed a few differences so far, mostly attributed to language barriers. The language barriers have made it difficult at times to understand each other's expectations, so I'm not completely sure what effect any of my actions may have had on them. Each student also has an individual personality that is not necessarily related to their culture.

Previous musical experience really comes into play. Some of them had taken lesons from serious teachers in the past, and others had pretty informal instruction.

For instance, the Finnish student had taken music seriously from a young age and was used to a critical eye and perfornming for people. The German lived in a rural area and had little help with the violin, so a lot of concepts were new to her. The Swiss student liked to improvise and got angry a lot when she made mistakes. She also got defensive when I pointed out errors. The Korean is very bashful, and she seems to be hiding her abilities. She has been the most culturally different so far, since she uses a "fixed Do" system for note names and has had to adjust to new note names, intervals, and counting in English. I've only taught her for a month, so we'll see how this develops.

Not one of these descriptions really relates to their culture so much as with their previous musical experience. Lessons have proceeded for the most part in the usual fashion. The musical end of teaching seems pretty cross-cultural.

I keep personal space at a maximum, regardless of culture.

October 9, 2005 at 11:38 PM · THanks Emily! That's a start for my presentation. I'll probably just use the cultures that are discussed.

October 10, 2005 at 05:52 AM · Hmmm, well I can tell you MY experience, being Japanese (and currently taking from a Japanese teacher to boot). I'm second generation, but my mom has very uptight Japanese ideals about lessons and such, and she took piano in Japan. To her the teacher is deserving of utmost respect and complete attention, my mom is even embarrassed if I yawn during a lesson. I share this second characteristic, but Japanese people are humble about whatever their abilities are around their teacher, they assume that what they are doing is inadequate. I feel very rewarded if my teacher is pleased, because she's very hard to please, even harder than myself :P

I don't know, it's just very formal. I stand if the teacher enters the room...I know when I used to take from a German teacher I was probably one of her few students who thanked her for instructing me, and we bowed to each other, which struck me as strange since I wasn't expecting that from anybody living in the US (it was almost reflex for me). I don't speak very much during lessons, just play (unless, of course, I'm spoken to). I carry on pretty long casual conversations with my teachers after a lesson, or before, but usually during a lesson it's pretty quiet on my part.

Hmm, yep, that's all I can think of. I know some Chinese people who take from a Chinese teacher, so I'll try and get some information from them too for you. Our town is very multicultural, (teachers trained in Italy, France, Austria, Germany, Japan, China...you name it) so I'm sure if I ask around in the orchestras I play in I could get some good information. I do remember that one of my friends took piano from a Chinese teacher, and the teacher was very blunt. "You're fingers are too short for you to be a pro", which I thought was pretty cruel. He taught him diligently anyway though.

October 10, 2005 at 06:56 AM · I took lessons from a Chinese teacher who was also very blunt, and I don't know if this is cultural. He certainly said some unexpected things...

October 10, 2005 at 02:17 PM · Anyone ever had a German or French violin teacher, or a German or French student?

October 11, 2005 at 03:44 AM · Of my non-American (read: not born/raised in the US) teachers:

A Russian, trained in Novosibirsk: Very warm, but very demanding; generally polite, but unafraid to be blunt once he knew I wouldn't start crying during a lesson.

An Italian: Pleasant, maternal. Vehemently scolded me as though I were her own son, but never hesitated to lavish praise. I often worried that I might bring *her* to tears, but she never did cry (in front of me).

October 11, 2005 at 09:55 AM · I had a mad Hungarian woman - her put downs included "feckin' eejit" (her version of Irish), "bimbo" (blond or not) and she engendered a love or hatred of the violin in equal numbers of small children. She took no prisoners and expected nothing but the best from everybody, while maintaining a total disregard for all the parents and other music teachers around her. Since I left her school she no longer acknowledges me, but I still love her anyway! I must be as mad as she is!

October 13, 2005 at 04:46 AM · In Malaysia where the buying power of the Ringgit is not all that great, anyone who could afford private lessons and a decent instrument (typically Chinese made) was well to do. Even so, the investment in the instrument is a major one for most families. So, students and their parents were absolutely afraid of doing any damage to the instrument. This meant that teachers were the only ones who ever tuned the instrument, and the students never how to do this themselves.

October 13, 2005 at 01:55 PM · Joseph, I am smiling reading your post. I just see myself in your mom. I am from Japan, too. I just didn't realize that we were acting differently from mothers with different cultural background. It is true I get embarassed when my son yawns in front of his teacher:) I know he's tired from being in school all day and being in the car for a hour and 1/2 to the lesson, but the teacher had a long day, too. She made a time just for him, so why not be respectful. Am I being too strict? I think not. I am glad you are thankful to your mom. Someday, my son will hopefully appreciate me, too. (Right now he is in that rebelient stage:(...)

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